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The God of Time

Without Beginning, Without End

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14 Jan 2019 (All day)
The God of Time

As we begin each new year, it is always good to be reminded that God is a God of beginnings. One of the main characteristics of God is his eternal nature. Eternity is a difficult concept for us to grasp. Eternity is a quality that has no end but also has no beginning: It always was and always will be.

‘Eternity’ is thus sometimes a term used to refer to heaven; a place when time as we know it does not exist. One of the greatest scientists who ever lived was the Jewish physicist, Albert Einstein. With his theory of relativity, Einstein radically changed our earthly concept of time. According to this theory, the faster you go, the slower times passes.

For example, if we would move in a spaceship at very high velocity, close to the speed of light, time would be dilated. If you could watch events on earth while travelling at 99.9% of speed of light, the events you were observing would look like an extreme time-lapse recoding on your smartphone, with everything moving 25 times faster. During your year on that spaceship, you would see your family on earth celebrating 25 years’ worth of Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries, etc. When you returned to earth, they would be 25 years older while you would only have aged one year.

Einstein then stated that, should you travel at speed of light (which is impossible) and watch events on earth, you would observe it in a ‘hyper time-lapse’ which would show you everything on earth simultaneously. From your perspective, time as we know it on earth, would no longer exist.

Now all this is hard to imagine and even more difficult to understand but many experiments have proven Einstein’s theory to be correct. To see all human history simultaneously seems impossible; our brain would be overwhelmed by the amount of information.

During World War II, my father had an experience which brought him to the verge of just such a ‘hyper time-lapse’. Laying on his deathbed in a Russian POW camp in winter 1946, weakened by starvation and extreme pneumonia, he overheard the doctors saying “Bühler will die tonight!” In his desperation, he remembered the prayers of his mother and called to God. Then something happened to him that he told us kids many times: “In an instant I saw my entire life, from birth until that day, passing by like a movie. Then a voice came to me saying: ‘If you die now – the way how you lived – you will be eternally lost!’” That day he gave his life to Jesus.

When God looks at events on earth, He is not confined to our time-space world. Augustine, one of the early church fathers, understood that time as we know it was created by God and that He exists outside our time. The best way for me to understand this is to remember that God identifies himself with light (e.g. John 1:9). That means in His realm, time does not matter.

It makes perfect sense when Jesus stated to the scribes of his time: “Before Abraham was I am” (John 8:58). From our perspective, this makes no sense but, from God’s perspective it was perfectly correct. As the eternal God, He is without end and without beginning.

Therefore, Paul knew and understood that God knows us and called us even before creation (Ephesians 1:9) and before time began (2 Timothy 1:9). What an amazing thought it is: Before the earth and the universe existed God already thought about us. That is why you and I exist today and this gives meaning to our lives.

Another amazing truth is that before time began, God already knew that humanity would need his saving grace in order to get us to our destiny. God perfectly knew that we would fail, make wrong decisions and even rebel against Him. But before time began he already provided an eternal remedy: the blood of Jesus. The book of Revelation describes Jesus as “… the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” (Revelation 13:8). The cross and the church is not a ‘plan B’ or an emergency scheme of God but was on his mind before time began. Jesus is thus the focal point and centre of time and history.

The prophet Isaiah highlights another characteristic of God which stretches our mind: “ … I am God, and there is none like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure,…’” (Isaiah 46:9–10). Not only did God see the start of our lives but He also knows how we will finish. There is no doubt that at the end of history ‘his council shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.’ What a great encouragement that is.

One of the greatest examples of this timeless and unshakable council of the Lord is the history of the people of Israel. The foundation of Israel’s purpose lays in God’s eternal purpose. Its biblical account starts after the flood.

After Noah’s family left the ark, his sons – Shem, Ham and Japheth – started new families and clans as described in Genesis 10. These families became the starting point of post-flood humanity. The Rabbis count 70 families and clans which originate from the sons of Noah, describing the nations of the world:

  • The European clans from Japheth “… everyone according to his language, according to their families, into their nations.” (Genesis 10:5)
  • The African and some Middle Eastern tribes from Ham (“…, according to their families, their languages, in their lands and in their nations.” (Genesis 10:20)
  • The sons of Shem as more tribes from the Middle East and the regions of the East “… according to their families, according to their languages, in their lands, according to their nations.” (Genesis 10:31)

Genesis 10:32 summarizes these 70 families of the earth: “These were the families of the sons of Noah, according to their generations, in their nations; and from these the nations were divided on the earth after the flood”. After the flood, God committed to never again destroy these families with a deadly flood (Gen 8:21f).

The following chapter however describes how, even after such a great judgment as the flood, mankind would still not worship God but were only concerned for their own interest and pride (Gen 11). This is where when Israel’s history began. Since God promised not to destroy mankind anymore by a flood, he decided instead to provide them a way of salvation. He called Abraham and prophesied to him “in you the families of the earth shall be blessed”, and the line of hope for the families of the earth began. Paul later recognizes that the very moment when God established the lineage of Abraham, it was the starting point for God’s salvation story with all the families, all the tribes and languages (Galatians 3:8).

Israel played a singular role in the salvation story of humanity: They gave us the word of God and their Messiah brings light even to the furthest part of the world. As the seed of Abraham, Jesus became the center and focal point of time and history. And that is why the church will always be indebted to bless the seed of Abraham as they were God’s vessel to bring salvation to humanity.

Let us now fast forward to the end of history: John the seer was supernaturally taken out of the earthly timeframe and was able to see ‘the end from the beginning’. He was amazed to see all the families of Noah united in heaven worshipping the lamb:

“After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”” (Revelation 7:9–10)

What started in Genesis – and even existed before the foundation of the world – now finds its completion. This amazing truth, that God already knew our end before our lives began, should personally give each of us the greatest encouragement. He is the beginning and the end, the Alpha and Omega. There are no surprises or emergency meetings in heaven because our God is the God of history who says not only about Israel but also about your life: ‘My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure.’ This is why Paul could so confidently state to the church in Philippi: “… being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;” (Philippians 1:6)

Even if your new year began with difficulty or unexpected challenges, be assured God will accomplish all that he has purposed for you. He will show you the good works God prepared beforehand for you (Ephesians 2:10). As you stay close to Jesus, spending time with Him and in His word, He will be the author and finisher of your faith (Hebrews 12:1).

May the Lord bless you as you walk in his eternal purposes in 2019!


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